Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat is an educational Chinese-Canadian-American animated television series, based on a 1994 novel by Amy Tan, which aired on PBS Kids, produced by Montreal-based Canadian animation studio CinéGroupe and Sesame Street creator Sesame Workshop. In the series, which is set c. 1861-1912 during the late Qing Dynasty, Sagwa has fun in her day-to-day life while learning and teaching valuable life lessons. The series is notable for its setting and messages about family obligations and loyalty. The series was developed and produced for television by David Ka Lik Wong and Leon G. Arcand and executive producers George Daugherty and Michel Lemire.
The series premiered on September 3, 2001, running for one season and 40 episodes. The series was cancelled on October 5, 2002, but continued to air in reruns on some PBS affiliates as late as September 2008 and, as of 2019, is still aired on several networks worldwide. In 2018, the opening theme was posted on Buzzfeed and it went viral, reaching 14 million people within 10 days.
The series won the Silver Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival for Children's Film in 2001, as well as winning a Outstanding Individual in Animation award for background artist Valery Mihalkov at the 29th Daytime Emmy Awards and a "TV Series - Family / Children" award at WorldFest Houston in 2002.
Sagwa resides in a palace of a magistrate in China in what is assumed to be the modern-day Fujian provinces of the People's Republic of China and Republic of China (possibly during the late Qing dynasty, shown by the characters' clothes), as part of a royal family of cats who have the ability to write with their tails. She and her siblings, along with various other cats and Fu-Fu the bat, have adventures that are usually accompanied by moral lessons, as is typical with most children's series. However, one aspect that sets this show apart is its display of various aspects of Chinese culture.
- Main article: List of voice actors
- Sagwa Miao – Sagwa (傻瓜 shǎguā, "silly melon") is the middle child of the Miao family at 6 years old, as well as the titular protagonist of the series. Kind, curious, quick thinking, creative and often bossy, Sagwa, according to a story told by Nai-Nai in one episode, was born in the Year of the Dog. She was originally pure white in color, but gained her current Siamese cat markings after falling into an inkpot. Sagwa is very talented in calligraphy and is said by her parents to have the best artistic skills in the Miao family. She has an orange and salmon Miao Family collar on her neck. Voiced by Holly G. Frankel.
- Dongwa Miao – Dongwa (冬瓜 dōngguā, winter melon) is the oldest child of the Miao family at 8 years old, born in the Year of the Monkey. Intelligent, competitive, and sometimes stubborn, he is independent and often prefers the company of the Alley Cats or solitary martial-arts practice to playing with his sisters. He is the only male child of the family and is protective of his sisters. He is cream-colored and has the traditional Siamese markings, and has a purple Miao Family collar on his neck. Voiced by Oliver Grainger.
- Sheegwa Miao – Sheegwa (西瓜 xīguā, watermelon) is the youngest child of the Miao family at 4 years old, born in the Year of the Rat. Curious, friendly, cheerful, and full of energy, Sheegwa is very optimistic and ascribes good intentions to almost every creature she meets. She is pure white in color, except for a pink tinge on her cheeks, and has a folded right ear. She has a pink Miao Family collar on her neck. Voiced by Jesse Vinet.
- Baba Wim Bao Miao – Baba (爸爸寶寶 bàba bǎobǎo, "father darling") is the father of the Miao family. He is very strict with his children and in matters of hard work and duty, but also has a softer, playful side. Baba also fancies himself a devotee of Chinese Opera, even though he has Beat deafness. He and Mama are the official calligraphers of the Foolish Magistrate. Like Dongwa, Baba is cream-colored and has typical Siamese facial markings. When he was cared for by Angwan, he was called Bu-Gu. Voiced by Arthur Holden.
- Mama Shao Fun Miao – Mama (媽媽小風 māma xiǎo fēng, "mother small wind") is the mother of the Miao family. Like Baba, she is also a loving, but strict, parent, but is usually more lenient and gentle than Baba. She and Sagwa have similar coloring and markings. Voiced by Ellen David.
- Nai-Nai Miao – Nai-Nai (奶奶 nǎinai, paternal grandmother) is the grandmother of the Miao family. Grey in color, she is old-fashioned, patient, and full of wisdom. She often tells the kittens stories and the family treats her as a respected ancestor. Voiced by Sonja Ball.
- Yeh-Yeh Miao – Yeh-Yeh (爺爺 yéye, paternal grandfather) is the grandfather of the Miao family. Like Nai-Nai, he is wise and patient. He is a good storyteller and the kittens treat him with great love and respect. Voiced by Neil Shee.
- Uncle Miao – Uncle is the uncle of Sagwa and Baba's brother. He is very much into ancient local history.
- Ayi Mae-Mae Miao – Mae-Mae is the aunt of Sagwa and Baba's in-law. She babysits Sagwa, Dongwa, and Sheegwa for the first time and adopts a dog called Cha-Siu as their cousin.
- Chi-Chi Miao – Chi-Chi is another aunt of Sagwa and Mama's sister. She is an acrobat and teaches Sagwa and Sheegwa the art of acrobatics. Voiced by Susan Glover.
- Shan-Tai-Yeh Soon, the Foolish Magistrate – The ruler of the province, Shan-Tai-Yeh (縣太爺孫xiàn tàiyé sūn, "Sun, magistrate of the county"; other name unknown) the Foolish Magistrate is a large and rather absent-minded man. He occasionally makes rules without reason, or makes ill-conceived decisions under pressure from his wife, Tai-Tai, but for the most part he is portrayed as a just and reasonable ruler. He is very fond of his cats, both for their calligraphy skills and for their ability to keep away mice and rats, of which he is deathly afraid of. In one of the episodes, when he says, "No rules, no race," his phrase turns into a musical drumbeat song as a result of being chanted by him. Voiced by Hiro Kanagawa.
- Tai-Tai Soon – Tai-Tai (太太孫 tàitài sūn, "wife grandson"; other name unknown) is the Foolish Magistrate's wife. She is a very irritable, status-conscious woman who needs to prove her superiority to the "common" people of the village; however, she has flashes of kindness and reasonableness, in which she sees the consequences of her actions and apologizes to those she has wronged. She is very attached to the Sleeve Dogs who live in her robe and values the cats only when they can bring praise to the family. She has a niece called Angwan. Voiced by Khaira Ledeyo.
- The Three Daughters – Ba-Do (白豆 bái dòu, literally "white bean") is the Magistrate's oldest daughter, who wears pink. Of the three daughters, Ba-Do is the protagonist. Luk-Do (绿豆孫 lǜ dòu, literally "green bean") is the Magistrate's middle daughter and usually wears yellow. She is the more athletic of her sisters. Huang-Do (黄豆孫 huáng dòu, literally "yellow bean") is the Magistrate's youngest daughter, who is shorter than her sisters and usually wears blue. She is the more sensitive of her sisters. The three girls argue a great deal, but they are generally loving sisters who support each other. Voiced by Kathy Tsoi, Leanne Adachi, and Rosa Yee.
- Ku-Keh, the Cook – Ku-Keh not only prepares meals, but he also attends to medical care and other emergencies around the palace. He is a good friend of the Reader. Voiced by Raugi Yu.
- See-Yeh Shi-Yi, the Reader of the Rules – See-Yeh Shi-Yi is in charge of reading the Magistrate's rules to the villagers; informally, he and the Cook often serve as advisers to the Magistrate as well. He also served as a tutor to the three daughters and in one episode, he is discovered to be a talented poet as well. The Reader is often the victim of mishaps caused by others in the palace. Voiced by Russell Yuen.
- Jun – Jun is the new tutor to the three daughters who appears in the final episodes. She wears purple clothing and is shown to be from another village.
Best Friends / Allies
- Fu-Fu – Fu-Fu (福蝠 fú fú, literally "lucky bat") is Sagwa's best friend and a sidekick. A cave-dwelling bat who wears round glasses, he is an extremely clumsy 8-year-old flyer and often crashes into trees and other objects. He acts as Sagwa's conscience, warning her against taking unneeded risks and then rescues Sagwa from the consequences of her adventures. Voiced by Rick Jones.
- The Mice – Shei-Hu, his cousin Shei-He, and a large group of other mice live unseen behind the Palace walls. They are close friends of the three kittens and do no harm to the Palace nor its inhabitants. However, the Foolish Magistrate and his family are very afraid of mice in general, so their presence must remain hidden. Voiced by Jaclyn Linetsky.
- The Alley Cats – A group of cats who live in the streets and alleys outside the palace grounds. They include "bullies" such as Wing Wing, Jet Jet, and Lik Lik, who tease the Miao kittens because of their "goody-goody" ways and privileged lives. However, others are friends to their siblings Sagwa, Dongwa, and (to a lesser extent) Sheegwa, such as two female alley cats named "Hun-Hun" and "Ling" and two male ones named "Won-Tom" and "Fam". Wing Wing is voiced by Michael Yarmush, Jet Jet is voiced by Erik von Detten, Hun Hun is voiced by Kathy Tsoi, Lik Lik is voiced by Terrence Scammell, Wong Ton was voiced by Ian James Corlett, and Ling was voiced by Kamiko Taka (in her only mainstream appearance).
- The Sleeve Dogs – Ping, Pong and Pang are three small Pekingese dog triplets who live in the sleeves of Tai-Tai's robe. They antagonize the cats and boast of their superior status, but invariably their taunting and plots make them appear ridiculous and get into trouble in the end. Pang is voiced by Sonja Ball.
Many of the names of the characters derive from the Chinese language. Their spellings are romanizations (though not always Wade–Giles, but possibly dialects also), and differ from the standardized Pinyin system.
The name of the titular character Sagwa literally means "silly melon head" Although innocuously without context, this phrase is typically regarded by Chinese to be an insult by carrying connotations of incompetence, foolishness, and even mental retardation.
Additional voices were done by Terrence Scammell, Carrie Finlay, Jaclyn Linetsky, Jonathan Koensgen, Mitchell Rothpan, Ricky Mabe, Michael Yarmush, Brigid Tierney, Michel Perron, Peter Shinkoda, Linda Wang, Karen Lee, Kameron Louangxay, Kamiko Taka, Amy Chow, Michael O'Reilly, A.J. Henderson, Susan Glover, Jane Woods, Eleanor Noble, Derek Lowe,, and John Stocker.
List of episodes
- Main article: List of Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat episodes
In 2003, PBS Home Video brought each compilation of individual episodes to VHS and DVD. On VHS, there were eight volumes with each containing three episodes. On DVD, there were four volumes, six episodes each. Each DVD combined episodes from each pair of the VHS tapes. A pair of VHS titles (Best Friends and Family Fun) were renamed for the Feline and Friends and Family DVD. There was also a 6 volume DVD box set, with each disc consisting of 5-6 episodes. Every disc comprises episodes based on themes and were divided in half for those select sections of segments. In 2006, 16 episodes from the series were released on one disc as part of the PBS Kids pack anthology set, with the two other discs containing episodes from Zoboomafoo and George Shrinks.
July 30, 2002
- Cat Nights, Flights and Delights – "Firefly Nights", "Fu-Fu's Full Moon Flight", "Shei-Hu's Secret"
- Feline Frenzy – "Explorer's Club", "Treasure Hunters", "Sick Day"
January 28, 2003
- Cat Tales – "How Sagwa Got Her Colors", "Fur Cut", "Stinky Tofu"
- Feline Festivities – "The New Year's Clean-Up", "Ba-Do and the Lantern Festival", "By the Light of the Moon"
April 1, 2003
- Best Friends – "Sagwa's Lucky Bat", "Cat and Mouse", "Dongwa's Best Friend"
- Family Fun – "Royal Cats", " The Cat and the Wind", "Ciao, Meow!"
July 29, 2003
- Kitty Concerto – "Alley Night Opera", "Comic Opera", "Tung, the Singing Cricket"
- Sagwa's Petting Zoo – "The Birds, the Bees and the Silkworms", "Panda-monium", "Sagwa, Fu-Fu, and the Whistling Pigeon"
January 28, 2003
- Sagwa's Storybook World (combines Cat Nights, Flights and Delights and Feline Frenzy)
- Cat Tales and Celebrations (combines Cat Tales and Feline Festivities)
July 29, 2003
- Great Purr-formances (combines Kitty Concerto and Sagwa's Petting Zoo)
- Feline Friends and Family (combines Sagwa's Feline Friends (a.k.a. Best Friends) and Sagwa's Family Tree (a.k.a. Family Fun)
In 2018, TFO's MiniMation YouTube channel began uploading episodes from the French version. The series was also briefly on Google Play.